It will be the first derby in front of the Scotstoun crowd since Wilson took over as Warriors head coach, as no spectators were allowed last season because of the pandemic. However, having seen the effect of a vocal home support during his time as one of Gregor Townsend’s assistants at national level, he believes the noise from the home fans could be crucial.
“As a Scotland coach I went to the derbies to watch, both at Murrayfield and Scotstoun,” Wilson said after naming a team that shows seven changes from the side that began the defeat by Scarlets a fortnight ago. “And Scotstoun was bouncing. Not that Murrayfield wasn’t, but it doesn’t feel quite as bouncing as it does in a more compact ground like Scotstoun.
“I’m really looking forward to that. We’ve had some big home wins this season and our home record goes before us.
“And a big part of that is down to the supporters we have and the passion on show at our home venue. I know that will be there and the Scotstoun crowd will always be loud and passionate. And I’m hoping that will make the difference and get us over the line against a good Edinburgh side.”
Six Glasgow players are away on international duty - Rory Darge, Sam Johnson, Ali Price, George Turner and the Fagerson brothers - while another nine are unavailable through injury. Despite those absences, and although loosehead prop Murphy Walker will be starting a professional match for the first time, on the whole Wilson has been able to choose a significantly more experienced pack than his Edinburgh counterpart Mike Blair, with Simon Berghan, Richie Gray, Scott Cummings and captain Ryan Wilson constituting a formidably solid spine to the forward eight.
The coach is sure that his team’s strength up front can be a factor, but he also pointed out how strong Edinburgh were behind the scrum. “It certainly plays its part,” he continued. “I’d always like to have a pack of firepower and experience, and I think we have.
“But then you look to the backs and Henry [Pyrgos] for the opposition at 9, [Jaco] van der Walt, the two Argentinian boys and then [Henry] Immelman at 15 – that’s five very experienced backs for them who are their first-choice backs, maybe Blair Kinghorn is the exception. It levels itself out a little bit.”
If this match does turn out to be a story of the strength of Edinburgh’s backs against the power of the home pack, it will be a complete reversal of the normal script for derbies in recent years, when under Richard Cockerill the capital side were all about the search for domination up front. But at the end of the day, and no matter how much passion is generated by the home support, the decisive factor may well be the ability by one side to remain calmer amidst the frenzy than their opponents.
“Derbies are about physicality and who turns up with the right mind set,” Wilson added. “Then after that in the latter stages it probably is about cool heads and making the right decisions in high-pressure situations, because derbies certainly bring a different edge to any other game.”
Glasgow Warriors (v Edinburgh at Scotstoun, tonight[Friday] 7.35pm): J McKay; S Cancelliere, R Fergusson, S McDowall, C Forbes; D Weir, J Dobie; M Walker, J Matthews, S Berghan, S Cummings, R Gray, R Wilson (captain), T Gordon, J Dempsey. Substitutes: G Stewart, N McBeth, E McQuillin, K McDonald, A Miller, J Lenac, R Thompson, S Tuipulotu.